Every week we’re going to check in with Travel Josh Engstrom, Travel Expert from Liberty Travel to get an update on flights between the United States and Australia, as well as hearing real-world information about what traveling looks like. This is the update for the week of the 12th of August, 2020.

Information is changing regularly so be sure to check back each week for updates.

Please note that all flights coming into Australia, have reciprocal flights leaving, so while the schedules will be different of course if you see an airline coming in – they will also be leaving to go back to point of origin.

As many countries enter phase one and two of lifting lockdowns and re-opening borders, it’s sometimes tough to work out whether you can fly into or transit different countries. Let me give you a great trusted link to get any info on entering countries:

https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/international-travel-document-news/1580226297.htm

This is IATA – the world body for all things air travel – a trusted source and they are updating regularly.

Caps on arrivals in Australia extended

Current flight inbound passenger number restrictions extended to October 24th

Updated this week the federal government and states released their current intake of people arriving from overseas. The next reassessment is the 24th of October.

This makes getting on a flight to Oz increasingly difficult – especially trying to book your flights only a couple of weeks out of travel.

My advice is to start planning at least 2 months before you fly – I know that that’s hard considering the everyday tragedy unraveling before us and constant changes to laws and travel regulations. But, with the increased flexibility airlines are offering, it’s better to have a seat you may have to change, rather than no seat at all.

Current limitations:

  • Sydney – 350 arrivals per day
  • Perth – 525 arrivals per week
  • Brisbane – 500 arrivals per week
  • Adelaide – 500 arrivals per week
  • Canberra & Darwin – flights discussed on a case-by-case basis
  • Hobart – no international flights
  • Melbourne – no international flight arrivals* – This is incredibly difficult news!!!

Routes most likely to be affected: LAX – SYD; SFO – SYD – United have already come out and capped their westbound capacity to 50 pax per flight!

Queensland Premier declares all of NSW and ACT a COVID-19 Hotspot

Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland Premier, has held a press conference where she announced the Queensland Government are declaring all NSW and the ACT a COVID-19 Hotspot as of 1:00am Saturday 08 August.

She has confirmed no residents of NSW or ACT will be allowed entry into Queensland from 1:00am Saturday 08 August 2020. She also confirmed any Queensland residents who are currently in NSW or ACT and don’t return to Queensland before 1:00am on Saturday 08 August will be required to quarantine for 14 days in an Government approved hotel at their own expense.

This new development will greatly affect those who chose to quarantine in SYD on their way back to QLD from OS – another worrying development – with double quarantine on the cards for QLD’ers coming in from NSW.

Availability of flights over the next two weeks (12-26 Aug)

Due to the current limits availability is now super tight. Looking at availability for the SFO – SYD & LAX – SYD routes operated by United and Delta, very few seats remain to purchase – mostly Biz and first are the only seats to purchase. After the 21st August, there are some decently priced Air NZ flights, but they are also selling out fast.

Travel agents can priority waitlist seats on planes, even when there are no seats to purchase. If you are a frequent flyer – this can help to clear you off the waitlist to a confirmed seat. Please let me know if you need urgent travel and can’t find any availability, I can help!

Family Travel & Quarantine experience with Air NZ – What it’s like traveling pregnant and with children during COVID.

Here’s what an amazing Mum sent me – it’s clients like these that make my job so rewarding:

Ah sorry just saw your msg on LinkedIn (which I rarely check) and tried to send this but maybe it was too long a message so emailing here.

We are alive! We made it. And we have 4 nights to go!!!

Ok, so here’s my complete rundown in case it helps with any of your future clients especially those with little ones…

Check-in at EWR with United at the kiosk but there was an issue (they said we had to show our child’s birth certificate) so we were directed to the other end of the counters for assistance. Lady here didn’t know why we had to show birth certificate but checked us in. They were SUPER strict with the 50lb weight limit. Not an ounce over. We had 3 free bags and checked 7 (so paid excess at $180 ea) which included 2 well underweight guitars, but no, still had to reshuffle a few bags that were 1.1lb over.

Other than that, check-in was fine although it took a while. Bags checked through to Brisbane, and we had all our boarding passes.

Security – we had Clear so quickly went through here.

Not many places open – one place where we could get some water, snacks, etc and we’d brought our own sandwiches for the flight.

Boarding was by those who needed assistance first and then back of plane forward. We were able to go in early as we had our child.

Flight would have been pretty normal except no blankets, pillows, or meals – just snacks and drinks. However, a couple decided to vape pot during our flight!!!! We had smelt it at the gate as they were sitting behind us, and kinda knew who it was and I had casually mentioned this to the flight attendant when I was stretching my legs… then we were involved, having to ID them and got to meet the Fed Marshall on board.

They vaped once, the plane was warned about smoking on the plane, and they did it two more times. After the third time, the pilot announced what was happening and that if it happened again, the plane would be detained at LAX and everyone questioned. Thank god they didn’t do it a fourth time!! The flight attendants were so thankful for the information that they gave our family a $200 United voucher each. Not sure if the couple was detained on deplaning as we had to deplane by section.

LAX – we chose not to walk outside and clear security again as we had so many hard drives (years of footage) to take out of our cabin bag so walked the long way between terminals to Tom Bradley. It was so dead. Kinda freaky. Anyway, we had 5+ hours so wasn’t a problem with time. Tom Bradley had 2 (?) stores open – Starbucks and Panda Express. We stayed near the gate and when it did eventually open I lined up to talk to her about a few things. Luckily I did as they said we’d not checked in with Air NZ (only United) so she had to check us in. Also, they had to check on our child’s visas and called Aus immigration to confirm he could enter Australia otherwise they wouldn’t let him on the flight to Auckland. This took about 30-45mins. Thankfully I had all his visas and exemptions printed out and got in line early. As the boarding process began, the line was extremely long and I heard others had similar experiences to ours.

Boarding was by those who needed assistance first so we were able to get on early and get settled. Our child and I in the sky couch and my husband opposite us in the aisle seat. Unfortunately, they had seated a father and teenage daughter in the middle and aisle seat next to him. One of the very few middle seats being utilized. We asked numerous flight attendants if my husband or the other two could move (there was an empty row 2 rows in front) but then they announced that the Ministry of Health has issued that all passengers must stay in their seats. We had a few chats to the flight attendants and even the flight manager about this – we’d been self-isolated for 4-5mths and I’m pregnant, and now my husband has to sit shoulder to shoulder with someone when there were free seats? It didn’t make sense. They said their hands were tied and they had to enforce what the ministry had issued. What made it even more frustrating was someone moved into that empty row mid-flight and they didn’t do anything about it! Anyway, the sky couch as great for our child – he had a great sleep. I couldn’t but was thankful he was well-rested. It had a LOT of bedding etc and then the other normal seats had blanket and pillow.

We were served dinner and breakfast plus beverages and snacks throughout the flight.

Arrival into NZ was pretty easy – we went to the transit area and had to go through security here – so empty water bottles, and all our hard drives, etc taken out. Then we entered the terminal where NOTHING was open. Sometime in the morning, the duty-free shop opened, and then later that morning a juice bar opened which sold some sandwiches, etc. But that was it. So keep water bottles from the flight as you can refill here otherwise, there are some vending machines to buy water. Our flight was delayed an hour as they had to tow the plane from the domestic terminal so it ended up being a very long 10+ hour layover.

AUK to BNE – the flight attendants again announced we couldn’t swap seats. It was a pretty uneventful flight where they served us a meal which was ok, plus drinks. No pillows are blankets on this flight but we had our own and were fine. The only bad thing about this flight was our child fell asleep and even though he was buckled in and the armrests were down, the flight attendant made me sit him upright for landing. This happened 20 mins before landing – anyway, he screamed bloody murder and kicked for 20 mins so that was a lovely way to fly back in the country!

We had to wait a while for someone to connect the bridge to the door and then they announced that all interconnecting passengers should deplane first. About 80% of the plane got off. Then we were taken off and after entering the terminal were handed a form which we had to fill in… it had already been filled in with our quarantine hotel – The Marriott Brisbane. So there was absolutely no choice in where we were going. It seems they just organize hotels by plane. Filled in the form and then went through another area where they took our temperature, then went further to where the police took our forms, asked questions, took photos of our passports, etc, gave us reading material and then we were sent to clear customs. From there we collected our bags and went through declaring items, then to another area to be handed more forms which we filled in in a holding area. We had to wait until everyone was off our plane and in this area before they sent us outside to load into the buses. We had to load our own suitcases onto the bus and then jumped on – lucky we had a seat in the front which is what I’d recommend to anyone! We waited until both buses were loaded with the 50 passengers and then in a convoy went to the hotel.

At the Marriot, the hotel manager boarded the bus and handed out more forms, plus explained a few things about how it worked at the hotel. We were then escorted off the bus six at a time from the front to back (so good to sit at the front), collected our bags which had been taken off the bus and left on footpath and went inside where we were greeted by our first person to check us in and our forms. He saw me waddle in and our child excited about being at the hotel offered us interconnecting king rooms! We were then sent to a check-in table where we collected our room keys. They did try to charge us for the second room – I said, we’re not paying for this room so definitely not paying for an additional room. We’ll just stay in the one but the other guy did say we could have the room. She went and checked with him and confirmed we could have it 🙂 We outlined our dietary requirements – me pregnant, My husband gluten-free, and our child kid meal. They gave us a bag with our dinner in it.

Marriott has been great – we have been allowed out almost every day. Food isn’t bad and they’ve been good with our dietary restrictions plus delivery warm milk for our child. We’ve used the iron with alfoil (which we brought with us) as a sandwich press lol  – which I highly recommend, and had groceries delivered. Waiting to get our COVID test today or tomorrow and then out on Saturday!

So grateful for all your help with getting us home. We can’t believe we made it back so easily considering all the dramas now with the flight caps. I feel so sorry for all those trying to get home now and having to pay biz class fares or wait months. If you have anyone who is flying into Brisbane and has questions, happy to answer as best I can.

Stay in touch xx

As we had interconnecting suites at the Marriott, we didn’t get to the phone in one of the rooms in time. It rang out. The next minute, police were knocking on our door to make sure we hadn’t done a runner. So long story short, always answer the phone and make sure your child doesn’t accidentally unplug the power so you can’t answer it!

COVID Test: they had first informed us it would be on the Monday/day 10, we ended up having it on the Wednesday/day 12 (so 3 days of worrying).

This may have changed as they had just intro’d mandatory testing in Qld, but for our child, originally they’d told us he’d have the nose and throat swab. Then on the day, he just had the throat swab (we had both). However, I found out later that other families on our flight had their test earlier that day and children younger than our child had nose swabs, whereas other children did not have any swabs. So it was a bit inconsistent. Again, this may have changed to a more universal approach now they’ve had time to iron out the kinks.

Test on Wed, got results on Friday (the day before checking out) – they had originally told us we’d get a text telling us of a negative result or a call if positive. We ended up getting a call through our hotel ph which of course, freaked us out, but it was because we had listed a US number and they weren’t texting international numbers – so they called the hotel number with our negative results.

We then got our slip under the door which we had to show at ‘check out’, and took with us to show if needed… and also to claim any exemptions. FYI we still have yet to receive our invoice a month later, so have yet to go through the exemption claims process.

On the day of ‘check out’ make sure to call through near your time of check out to ensure police come up to collect you at your designated time. We were supposed to be out at 8:30 am and called at 8:50 to see where they were. They acted surprised that we had not called them yet. We had also notified the hotel earlier that we would require at least one to two baggage carts. So when we called through that morning we reiterated this and in the end, the police had to do 2 trips with our luggage.

Valet – we had family drop off a car the day before so we could collect from the valet, load up and go. Originally they’d told us there would be a fee, but when I spoke to a different manager, she waived the fee for us so I would definitely push to get it complimentary.

Also don’t say you have any other ailments eg. sore back from being pregnant. I read on a FB group someone causally mentioned a sore back (from improper desk chairs) before their check out and were told it was a symptom of COVID, they had to be retested and stay longer until tests came back negative!!!

Think that’s it for now! Hope this helps some people and happy to answer any q’s if more arises.

Take care xx

Hotel Quarantine

NSW/QLD/SA/WA charging travelers now for their quarantine

*NB The process for checking your purchase date for tickets is done at the hotel, please contact me for assistance on how to best plan for this.

Airlines that have changed flights or plans

Air New Zealand (NZ)

Still operating services from NYC – SYD//BNE (via AKL) 2-3 times weekly – Important Melbourne update – Air NZ have quit MEL service until at least the 24th October in line with national intake numbers – 0 allocated for MEL.

United (UA)

Still the most reliable route to Australia for New York-based expats – Still only from SFO – SYD – Availability is very tight for the coming weeks departure. If you urgently need to get home, this is your safest bet. If you can’t find seats let me know as I can waitlist seats as above.

United is expanding to also offer LAX – SYD flights from the 8th September (plenty of availability here for those dates guys), this is a good sign that travel volume is expected to rise.

Daily service from San Francisco to Sydney through August – still have not had any problems with these flights. United have just posted their upcoming routes for August/September and great news, Sydney flights are still going to be running daily from SFO.

Delta (DL)

DELTA Air Lines has resumed its Australian operations, WED/FRI & SUN. There are flights from NYC to connect in LAX. The addition is part of a staged global resumption of operations adding 1,000 flights system-wide subject to demand and evolving COVID-19 restrictions. Pricing is good, and looks like there’s plenty of availability – Getting good feedback on this service, and the ones I’ve booked all got home safe and sound – let me know if you want help to book Delta flights.

Airlines and flights that have stayed the same

Virgin Australia (VA)

Now that it looks clearer that this airline will remain in the longer term, a media release from the two new stakeholders state that Virgin Australia will honor the more the $100 million worth of tickets canceled due to COVID and the company going into bankruptcy, this is great news for Aussies in the US who had their original VA flights canceled. Unsure whether they will be able to get refunds still, but at least when they do start flying again, you will be able to use your existing credit.

QANTAS (QF)

QF were expected to start their LAX-SYD route in August, this has now been canceled, checking their schedule, I can’t see any flights until at least November – this is a very sad departure, with new updates to come as they are released.

Qantas has updated their refund policy – so that it is easier to understand and hopefully easier for those whose flights were canceled to get a refund.

Qantas (and Virgin Australia) this week, as expected, suspended all remaining international flights that were in operation in cooperation with the Australian Government (https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/qantas-and-virgin-australia-suspend-remaining-international-flights-20200608-p550jl.html):

Qantas and Virgin Australia have re-grounded their remaining international passenger operations after government funding for the handful of overseas routes they were flying came to an end.

Singapore Airlines (SQ)

Changi Airport is going to open its airport soon to non-Singapore Nationals, this could also be a great option moving forward for non-Sydney residents who don’t want to do the Sydney quarantine (i.e.ADL/PER/BNE residents) again.

Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY) and Qatar (QR)

With no official statement – these airlines anecdotally are bumping economy class passengers from their flights – this is a worrying development, as this really does put people in jeopardy if they can’t afford a biz class ticket. Please contact me before you book any of these airlines and we can look at these options together.

With Emirates, you can now fly direct into PER/SYD/BNE via Dubai.

NYC – BNE – Thursdays only

NYC – PER – Wednesday’s only; DXB – MEL – Tuesday’s, Thursday’s & Friday’s; DXB – SYD – Monday’s, Wednesday’s & Saturday’s

ETIHAD – daily connections from NYC – SYD

QATAR –  NYC – BNE – MON/WED/FRI; NYC – PER TUE/THU/SAT/SUN

Questions & Bookings

Do you have any questions? Do you need travel advice? Contact Josh by his email, [email protected]

Josh Engstrom Liberty Travel

About the Author

Travel Josh

I now work on Madison Avenue, in the Air Experts team for Flight Centre. We consolidate, group rate and manage the heck out of any and every kind of flight you could possibly think of. We solve problems and send off happy and sad people. We humanize what has become a very transactional process.

To get in touch with Josh and ask a question, feel free to contact him via his email [email protected]

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